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Supreme Court’s comment on the 1991 Act, ‘It is not prohibited to find out the religious character of a place of worship under the Place of Worship Act’


New Delhi: Supreme court (Supreme Court) said on Friday that Places of Worship Act 1991 (Places Of Worship Act 1991) is not restricted to ascertain the religious character of a place of worship. A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice PS Narasimha made the important observation during an hour-long hearing of the Gyanvapi Masjid dispute. He said that it has made a difference in the 2019 Ayodhya Verdict. places of worship act and Section 3 does not expressly prohibit the ascertainment of religious character in a place of worship.

‘Determining the religious character of the place of worship is not explicitly prohibited’
The bench said, “We have discussed these provisions in the Ayodhya verdict. Determining the religious character of a shrine is not explicitly prohibited. The Court clarified that this was not its intention, but it was stated in the communication between the two parties. Justice Chandrachud, who commented on behalf of the bench, was part of the five-judge bench that delivered its verdict in the Ayodhya dispute in 2019. Justice Chandrachud said, “Suppose there is an Agiyari (Parsi fire temple) and a cross in the same premises, does the presence of an Agiyari allow the cross to become an Agiari? Could the presence of the cross allow that complex to become a place of worship for Christians?’

‘Communal harmony is being disturbed’
The apex court was hearing a plea by Anjuman Intejamiya Masjid, the committee that manages Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Masjid, challenging the Allahabad High Court’s decision. The High Court had refused to interfere with the trial court’s decision to appoint a court commissioner in the matter. Senior advocate Hafeza Ahmadi, appearing for the committee, argued that a discourse is being prepared and the report of the commission is being leaked selectively and communal harmony is being disturbed. He further said that it should not be seen from the point of view of just one trial, but its outcome can be seen across the country. However, the court assured him that it would not allow this to happen.

Ahmadi said that even though the court has allowed Muslims to offer prayers in the mosque, some part of it has been sealed and the worshipers are not being allowed to take water for wudu. To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said that the above fact cannot be correct, as alternative arrangements have been made for vaju and security has been provided to deal with any law and order situation. Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the Hindu devotees, said that the area has been sealed so that (the Shivling) cannot be desecrated.

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